THE future operator of Barnard Castle's weekly Wednesday market will be expected to pay Durham County Council an annual licence fee of at least £5,000.

As part of a county-wide strategy, operators are being sought to regenerate and develop the traditional markets in nine towns.

Following an information day in July, tender documents have now been made available to any interested parties.

County officials say the markets could be run by community groups, trade consortia or specialist operators.

In Barnard Castle, the town council, the business guild and organisers of the farmers' market are working together on a possible bid.

The tender documents confirm the minimum annual licence fee Durham County Council will accept for Barnard Castle is £5,000.

Further information shows it costs an estimated £5,688 a year in salaries to employ staff to manage the market, while traders are charged 50p per linear foot frontage for their stalls.

In all, Barnard Castle market, which is held on the cobbles of Horse Market and Market Place, is limited to 400 linear feet frontage.

The new operator of the market will have the area available for use between 7.30am and 6pm on Wednesdays, with operational hours of 8am to 4.30pm.

Traders are responsible for putting up their own stalls but the operator must have a representative on site to oversee and manage operations.

The successful bidder will be expected to run the market for three years, starting in December, with the option of a two-year extension.

Michael King, Barnard Castle Town Council clerk, said the council, the business guild and the farmers' market were keen to develop a response to the tender document.

But he said there were a number of issues which needed clarification before any progress was made.

“It is not clear if there is a working model that would enable the town council, either on its own or with others, to operate the market.”

The origins of the market are unclear.

Information included with the tender documents states: “It is assumed the market is or was a charter market, however, the charter document may no longer exist or has been lost.

“Rights and responsibilities exercised under the authority of the former district of Teesdale (Teesdale District Council) have been subsumed by the county council following local government reform.”

The deadline for bids to run Barnard Castle market is noon on September 20 and the successful operator will be announced on October 31.